Did you catch the earlier blog post from other leaders who have been WINNING at creative programming during a pandemic? Learn about Backyard VBS with KidsMin Leader Jason Brown! Today, we will rethink VBS by turning it completely virtual! Get ready for some incredible virtual VBS ideas from Children’s Ministry Leader, Ashley Purcell.
What is your name and job title?
Ashley Purcell, children’s minister
Where is your church or ministry program located (city, state)?
Grace Heartland Church in Elizabethtown, Kentucky
Virtual VBS Concept
What was the name of your VBS program?
Focus Virtual VBS
What was the general concept of your program?
As with most things during the year of 2020, we had to get creative to minister to the families of our community during COVID-19. Instead of canceling VBS, we created some virtual VBS ideas where we’d go 100% virtual from home. The church handed out supply kits, recorded all of our worship songs, craft moments, small group sessions, and Bible teaching moments. In addition, we created a Facebook group just for virtual VBS families to engage with everyone throughout the week. While so many things around us were being shut down or canceled, it was important to us to keep VBS alive and exciting!
How did you staff your program? What roles were involved in planning and execution?
While a typical VBS week for us requires 200+ volunteers, our virtual experience required a scaled down team. For a fun virtual VBS idea, we used families in the church create segments for virtual VBS! This allows volunteers to serve from home. One family hosted a cooking segment each day – Cooking with the Castenirs. We also had a family create a sports segment each day called Sports with the Stiths. Finally, our associate minister recorded a mission moment each day in Missions with Michelle. We also had the worship team dance motions to songs from home, and our A/V minister put them together. All in all, we utilized the skills of less than 25 people.
Virtual VBS Logistics
Did you charge a fee per child or per family?
We did not charge a fee for families. The only cost for a family was their groceries to participate in Cooking with the Castenirs.
Did you provide any resources to parents, families, or kids for your program?
Leading up to the kick-off, we provided “Family Activity Kits.” This virtual VBS idea helped kids easily grab the supplies they needed for the small group/STEM activities, craft projects, and cooking time. Our sports time required limited supplies, and we chose items that could easily be found in a home.
During the week, we posted announcement videos, instruction videos for making the crafts, walk-through videos for the STEM activities, and daily devotionals for the parents. We used the leader devotionals provided with the curriculum we purchased!
Marketing Virtual VBS Ideas
How did you promote or market your program?
We utilized social media and our website to promote our program. We were also featured on our local radio stations and in the newspaper.
What kind of follow-up did you do with the people who participated in your program?
When you host a VBS or event like it—whether in-person or virtual—it’s so important to have a follow-up plan! You always want to give your families a next step. Here are some follow-up question ideas for virtual VBS that families might have:
- What’s their next step for getting connected to your church?
- What’s their next step for creating a discipleship program in their home?
- How can they continue to lead their child in a relationship with Jesus?
Having a plan in place prior to the start of your event is helpful so you don’t find yourself scrambling at the end—when you’re exhausted!
For us, we executed this plan through constant contact via email and messages to the families—giving them follow-up questions to ask their child about what they learned that day. This virtual VBS idea came from the parent resources in the curriculum we purchased daily.
At the end of the week, we sent every family a survey to get their feedback and made sure to thank them for participating. If a family wasn’t already plugged in to our church, we emailed them with all sorts of information about us and a plan to get connected if they desired.
Due to COVID-19, we weren’t meeting in-person at all around VBS time. We made sure to send every family involved in our VBS the links to watch our worship services and Children’s Ministry videos each Sunday, so they could stay plugged in that way.
Tips and Ideas for Virtual VBS
Is there anything that you plan to change if you repeat this VBS program in the future?
If we were to change anything, it may be trying to offer virtual small groups for families to have the opportunity to connect with one another.
If you have any other information or details about your program that would be helpful for other leaders, please feel free to share them!
The final day of the week was one of my favorite virtual VBS ideas! On the last day, we have a local DJ who did a virtual glow party for us on our church’s main Facebook page. This was a fun virtual VBS idea to celebrate altogether. We made sure all families had glow sticks for dancing in their Family Activity Kit, as well as the link to the party. The DJ played all of our worship songs as well as favorites like Church Clap, Electric Slide, Cupid Shuffle, etc. It was so much fun to see videos of families dancing together and celebrating an incredible week of VBS—virtually!
Virtual VBS Reviews
Here’s what some of our parents had to say about their experience:
Chanty H. writes:
“The win for families as a whole was that a parent who may not normally volunteer for VBS could participate this year. The at-home experience allowed for those (individual parents or a family unit) who do not normally attend church, for whatever reason, to hear the Gospel without reservation. Virtual VBS likely planted seeds that have now taken root and are growing.”
Jaime D. writes:
“A win for our family was the fact that we were still able to participate in an experience that our children so look forward to, even if it did look differently this year. It also allowed us a fun experience to come together and participate in as a family. What worked well was having a set time to come together and focus on the day’s lessons and activities. It also helped that materials were prepared for us in advance, and an easy-to-follow plan was in place. Advice I would have for a family participating in an online VBS experience would be to make the time spent each day intentional and include the whole family. The fun is not just for the kids!”
Here’s what our lead Pastor had to say about the experience this year:
Jeff N. writes: “For me, it was the creative thought behind the particular activities that legitimately got families up from behind the screen and into the kitchen for snack time, into the yard for moving time, and then in a mode of real listening when the lesson was shared. It moved quickly and it all focused on a genuine spiritual lesson. Frankly, I was blown away. Oh, and it also challenged the families to go and serve in the community, not just learn about a mission on the other side of the world!”
To read more non-traditional VBS ideas from leaders who have creatively continued to reach the families in their communities, check out this free ebook, “Rethinking VBS: 9 Non-Traditional Ideas to have the Very Best Summer.”